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Why would a 19-year-old college student give up weekends and weeknights, study time and free time, hours she could be spending with friends to dedicate herself to Big Ocean Women? Grace Garn is that 19-year-old, and we wanted to know a little more about what drew her to maternal feminism, and why she felt it was important to get involved. Keep reading to find out, in her own words, why she became a part of Big Ocean, and why she thinks you should too. 

My parents swear that I came out of the womb opinionated about human rights. I began creating events and public speaking in my early teen years which lead me to almost unwillingly become educated on social issues. I quickly had to learn how to articulate my thoughts in a way others could understand. “Feminism” was a taboo sort of dirty word in my community growing up, so I would secretly collect quotes from iconic feminists and try to justify why they resonated with me. I think deep down, I always knew I was a feminist—at least with some sense of the word but I refused to put any more thought into it in the fear I might get swept away in the “liberal current” as it was phrased. In my home, free thought was a value worth working for, but in my community, feminism was the gateway drug to becoming a social pariah. Needless to say, I stuck to researching the issue without fully identifying with any group. 

My junior year of high school was a rough year for me, mostly rooted in a severe health disorder. My health demanded my attention that year, which caused my grades to begin falling. In hopes of saving my GPA, I decided to drop my university concurrent enrollment classes and take classes from the local home-schooling co-op, one I had participated with previously. It was over halfway through the semester, so I was lucky to be fit into the only two classes that had space for me; however, I was not particularly excited about either of them. Regardless, I was grateful. One was titled ‘World Civics’ which I thought I didn’t need a class on. When I attended, I mostly just listened to the teacher half-rant about current events while trying to mother at least two children at a time. I didn’t exactly love everything she was saying at first, but I immediately picked up on her logic and I appreciated her investment in helping me argue my thoughts, even sometimes against her own opinions. I felt respected, as she often expressed her belief in me and my ability to figure things out. After the school year ended, she proposed that we continue our civics class through the summer but under the organization she created called Big Ocean Women. 

Now my dear mentor and friend, Carolina, introduced me to the concept of Maternal Feminism, which encompassed everything I already believed to be true about women’s advocacy, helped resolve some of the tensions I had felt about traditional feminism, and validated my deep desire and personal obligation to do more. I immediately dove into the organization, reading the website up and down, attending/leading cottage meetings, and eventually flying across the country to represent them on an international scale. This was four years ago, and I have only become increasingly converted to Maternal Feminism and the movement over time. Over the past four years with Big Ocean Women, I have worked with many people, which has helped sculpt me into who I am today. Looking back, I understand that it was by divine elbows that I was nudged into Carolina’s influence. 

Big Ocean Women is a place for every young woman—not only those who are passionate about women’s rights, but also for those who don’t feel like they get the hype and want to know more. Full disclosure: I can almost guarantee you’ll catch Big Ocean Fever once you experience how rewarding it is to serve your community from a Big Ocean Women cottage. With Big Ocean as my platform, I have been able to use the skill set I already have to make a huge, measurable difference to so many. I am good at planning events and public speaking, so I was put to work creating events with attendees, amounting to over a hundred and giving speeches to members of the United Nations’ committees. I have seen women who were gifted in journalism write articles for not only their cottage but to be shared with cottages worldwide. I have seen women who wanted to care and nurture have the opportunity to donate to refugee sisters and personally get to know people from around the planet. Whatever your skill is, it is valuable, and we can put you to work allowing you to directly impact lives globally starting immediately. Big Ocean Women is an opportunity resource pool you ought to take advantage of.      

      While serving in a Big Ocean cottage, you can gain experience equivalent to an internship, while you get involved with timely issues, and help make a difference. You can gain experience in your field by contributing your own specific skill set to your cottage. Need editing experience? Offer to edit the monthly newsletter. Need financial experience? Offer to be the treasurer for donations to your cottage. The Big Ocean Women leadership are happy to write letters of recommendation to help you gain that special edge to make your resume stand out in any industry. 

Big Ocean Women has given me the most phenomenal community and has sincerely become like a family to me. I feel that I could go to a number of the women I have had the pleasure of working alongside for advice on anything from political strategy to spiritual development to boy drama. Seriously. Having the support net of my Big Ocean sisters gives me the confidence to speak up against the overwhelming numbers of people that would tear me and my beliefs down. I sometimes feel alone and isolated because of the truths I have found, beliefs that it seems most disagree with. Understanding that I have a full community of power-packed women that stand with me is oftentimes the reason I am able to stay standing with my head up high. I feel safe in discussing my new thoughts within my cottage because the women in Big Ocean are accepting and give me constructive, encouraging feedback. I have a secure place to explore issues when I am not sure where I stand quite yet. My cottage gives me a space to discover and share principles that mean so much to me through regular cottage discussions.   

Big Ocean Women has changed my life. Please, no matter your age or life situation, talk to a representative to see where you could best fit in. We will work with you to ensure you are excited about what you’re doing and feel valued in your position. As a university student, Big Ocean provides me with opportunities to do tremendous good, share my voice, build an impressive resume, and have a support system away from home. The tenets Big Ocean is defined by have helped answer my questions and help me feel like being a woman is the best thing I could possibly be. If you are looking for a consistent, light-filled feminist group, you’ve found it. Welcome.